World Refugee Day – Thoughts from the PCO

World Refugee Day is celebrated today, June 20th, so it’s an opportunity for us to recall what the friars at the PCO have been saying on the issue of migration over the last week or so.

The Order wishes to be part of the worldwide discussion on migration, and it was one of the topics discussed in yesterday’s World Café format. It cannot be denied that the scale of human migration today is without historical precedent. It reflects deep poverty in some regions of the world and causes socio-political tensions in some of the countries that receive migrants. The friars live and work both in the countries people are leaving and places in where the arrival of migrants has caused social tensions. People leave their countries of origin for many reasons, including flight from violence, political persecution, modern forms of slavery, corruption, and the search for a better life for themselves and their families.

A week ago, Cardinal John Onaiyekan commented that he believes that our attitude towards receiving immigrants should not be conditioned by their motivation for migration. Refugees and ‘economic’ migrants should be treated the same —however, this approach is not shared by all.

“I think that immigration must also be seen an opportunity for a much more practical approach by the church,” said Br. Tosmislav Sanko, OFM during his report. He further asked: “If the Church retreats and becomes passive, she risks betraying her mission and losing the opportunity to offer hope. If the Church does not do it, who will?”

As a practical example of this, faced with the pastoral needs associated with human migration, the Santa María de Guadalupe Conference (Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean) has begun to provide shelters that care for the migrants passing through their territories, where people who are on the migrant trail are provided with legal advice and healed of the wounds of the road (hunger, violations of their human rights, exploitation).

Yesterday’s World Café conversations on Migrants recognized the complexity of the issue and among the many views expressed was that we need to witness to our common humanity and promote humane treatment for all, no matter what our views are on the protection of borders and the movement of people.

The topics discussed during today’s World Cafe were: Evangelization in the Spirit of Laudato Si; A Rapidly Changing World; Instruments of Peace in the face of Contemporary Violence; Religious Life and the Vision of Pope Francis.